New Delhi, Dec 8: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday hit out at the Centre over the Kashmir issue and spiraling onion prices and accused the BJP of targeting political rivals and said he will neither buckle or fall under pressure nor join the ruling BJP.
He said: “As we speak now, freedom is denied to 75 lakh people in the Kashmir valley,” adding, if freedom of one person was denied, it meant denying it for all the people.
“Freedom cannot be separated, yours is mine and mine is yours and if I do not protect your freedom, you cannot protect mine,” he said on his arrival here from Delhi.
After being in Tihar jail and in the custody of CBI and the Enforcement Directorate for 106 days, he was released on December 4 following grant of bail by the Supreme Court in a money laundering case filed by the ED.
After he was given a rousing welcome by Congress workers, Chidambaram told reporters: “In this country, a right wing, retrograde (government) is moving towards a fascist type of government that usurped freedom…we have to be very vigilant.” The country will become truly independent only when the people in the rest of the nation showed south India’s vigil and in particular Tamil Nadu’s caution in opposing the BJP, he claimed.
On his case, he said he will not talk about it, adding, “Why I was imprisoned? They (the Centre) thought of wrecking my mental strength and it will not happen any day. If anybody had thought that I will fall, I will never fall as the Congress party and the Indian people’s thirst for freedom are behind me…it is going to be a fight continuously,” he said.
Chidambaram also accused the government of trying to wreck his physical health, adding they succeeded for about 10 days.
After the court’s intervention and examination by doctors, “today (my) health has more or less improved fully,” he said.
Asked about Union Minister Prakash Javadekar’s charge that he has violated his bail conditions, he said: “Prakash Javadekar does not know about the (Supreme Court) court’s verdict and he also does not about what I had spoken.” Later, addressing a public meeting at the Congress party’s State headquarters here he said: “This morning, the price of onion in Delhi was Rs 200 a kilo, while a farmer in Maharashtra producing it gets Rs seven a kg for it. We should talk only about that.” He alleged that BJP’s objective was to “strangulate the voice of freedom” and the ruling party had been working towards it by targeting rivals by filing cases against them.
“Newspapers should not write, television channels should not debate,” he said adding the ruling party’s goal was also to not allow “political leaders” (rivals) to criticise it.
To ensure implementation of its agenda, the ruling party at the Centre was bent on “strangulating” their voices, he alleged.
Citing the recent income tax raids against former Karnataka deputy chief minister G Parameshwara and another leader, he said Congress MP K C Ramamurthy subsequently joined the BJP.
Similarly, TDP’s C M Ramesh and Y S Chowdary, who were the “left and right hands” of party chief Chandrababu Naidu had earlier this year joined the saffron party.
“Both of them have cases against them and both are today in the BJP,” he said.
Sarcastically, Chidambaram likened the BJP to river Ganga, a dip in which is believed to cleanse devotees of their sins.
“The BJP is River Ganga and all sins will vanish after taking a bath in it. I will never take a bath in that Ganga (the BJP).
I will bow before justice and judge, I will never bend before injustice,” he said, apparently indicating that he will not buckle under pressure and join the BJP.
Making light of his incarceration, he said “spending 106 days in jail” was nothing big when compared to the incarceration of leaders of the freedom movement, including Jawaharlal Nehru. “I happily accept my imprisonment,” he said.
Quoting a popular verse of nationalist poet Subramania Bharathi, he said the bard may have sung it “bearing Modi in mind.” The part of the verse, which Chidambaram emphasised can roughly be translated as, “I will not go down (fall) like some amusing people…”, which is seen as directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party.
“Till such time you (people) are there, the Congress party, which won us freedom, is there. Till the memory of freedom fighters like Gandhiji, Nehru, Tilak, Sardar Patel, Kamaraj, V O Chidambaram Pillai lingers…you thought that I will fall? No, never,” he said.
Grassroots democracy:It is raining sops for Panches and Sarpanches in J&K
Srinagar, Jan 17: From insurance cover to paid holiday, Jammu and Kashmir government has gone all out to open purse strings for Panchayat representatives in the Union Territory.
At least 35 Sarpanches from the Union Territory are on a 10 day tour of Maharashtra and Gujarat since January 10.
“We (Sarpanches) are being taken to various cities. We will also get to know how the Panchayati Raj system works there,” said one of the Sarpanches, who is part of the tour.
An official of Rural Development Department said the second leg of tour for Sarpanches would start from January 23. “Centre has directed J&K administration to strengthen the Panchayati Raj system in the Union Territory. Organizing tours is part of providing additional incentives to Sarpanches,” he said.
Similarly, over 40,000 Panchayat members are being brought under the insurance cover in Jammu and Kashmir at par with government employees.
“The demand was raised by a group of Sarpanches and Panches who met Union Home Minister Amit Shah in September last year. Following which, Centre told J&K administration to take all measures in this regard,” the official said.
Sources said J&K administration is finalizing modalities for providing life insurance cover to the Panchayat Raj representatives. “Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam has held several meetings with Financial Commissioner Finance Department and authorities of Rural Development Department. Discussion is going over amount of risk cover and the premium,” sources said.
Sources said once the process is finalized, government would float tenders for engaging insurance company. “Centre believes that insurance cover would provide a sense of security to Panchayat members,” they said.
Filling the political gap, government has also decided to treat Panchayat members and councilors as ‘VIPs’ on Republic Day celebrations in Kashmir. As per official documents, district development commissioner Srinagar has been directed to prepare a list of invitees.
“Invitees shall include VVIP and VIPs. They include chairperson of BDCs, Panches, Sarpanches and councilors,” the document reads.
Earlier, leaders of political parties were being invited as VIPs. Centre, as part of its initiative to empower around 40,000 elected local representatives in J&K, had earlier enhanced the financial powers of Panchayats 10-fold from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh, and that of block councils from Rs 25,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh.
There are 21 departments including Rural Development, Social Welfare, Health, Education, Power, Horticulture, Fisheries and Agriculture, which come under the administrative control of Panchayat members, the official said.
Polls to nearly 13,000 gram panchayats likely in Feb
New Delhi, Jan 17: The elections to the nearly 13,000 vacant posts of panch and sarpanch in gram panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir is likely to be held next month and a notification is this regard is expected to be issued on January 25, officials said on Friday.
If the polls take place, it will be the first elections in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state into union territories in August last year.
The elections to about 13,000 vacant posts of panch and sarpanch in gram panchayats is likely to be held next month and a notification is expected to be issued on January 25, a Home Ministry official said.
The entire election process is expected to be over by February end.
The posts were lying vacant since November last year when the elections to the local bodies were held.
Out of Kashmir”s 20,093 panch and sarpanch seats, more than 12,500 seats have remained vacant since then.
The announcement to the polls is likely to come amidst the visit of 36 union ministers to Jammu and Kashmir beginning Saturday.
The 2018 polls to the local bodies had witnessed poor participation with two major regional political parties — the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — boycotting it.
LG reviews Jammu lake project, says admin will expedite works
Jammu, Jan 17: Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu reviewed the progress of a number of projects in the winter capital of the Union territory on Friday and said the administration will expedite the works.
He visited the market place and tourism reception centre to assess the facilities there. During a visit to the Tawi river bank the L-G was briefed by Ajeet Sahu, the principal secretary of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department, about the progress of its beautification project and the Jammu lake project.
During his visits, Murmu was accompanied by top divisional-level officials and heads of departments.
Asserting that the administration was trying to expedite the projects, the L-G said, “We don”t know what had happened in the past, but we will carry it from here and see to it that these are completed.”
In June last year, the Jammu and Kashmir government had cancelled GR Infra Projects Limited”s contract for developing the artificial Tawi lake. The administration is set to release fresh tenders to resume work.
A revised detailed project report was framed, according to which Rs 51.57 crore shall be required to complete the project and Rs 4.97 crore to undo the damage caused due to floods till date, officials said.
The project, launched in 2009 by the Congress-NC government, was marred by delays and missed six deadlines before work came to a standstill in 2018.
As per the project plan, an auto-mechanical barrage would be constructed on the river Tawi, one kilometre downstream of main Tawi bridge. This will help create an artificial lake at Belicharana. The 1,500-metre-long and 600-metre-wide artificial lake, a first-of-its-kind here, will give a new dimension to tourism in Jammu city, officials said.
In phase-II of the project, beautification and embankment works are to be taken up under Tawi River Front Development Project for which an MoU has already been signed by Jammu Development Authority (JDA) with the Sabarmati River Front Development Corporation.
Before beginning the tour Murmu paid obeisance at the famous Raghunath temple in the morning.
SSF guarding LG strengthened with intake of 19 more cops
Press Trust of India
Jammu, Jan 17: The special security force (SSF) guarding Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu has been strengthened with induction of 19 more police personnel and support staff, officials said.
As per the order issued by Special Secretary, Home Department, Shakeel-Ur-Rehman, 13 personnel including three officers and six police staff have been sent on deputation with the SSF with immediate effect on Thursday.
This step has been done to strengthen the security cover around the L-G, they said adding that the force will now have a total of 80 well-trained officers.
In 2018, the then State Administrative Council (SAC) of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir had approved a bill for setting up the force for providing proximate security to the governor.
The bill, which was later given approval, contains provisions related to the constitution and regulation of a separate security force in the state for providing proximate security to the governor, members of his immediate family and matters connected therewith.
Those posted with the SSF, like their counterparts in the SSG, have commando training.
The legal framework related to constitution and regulation of a separate security force in Jammu and Kashmir for providing proximate security to the chief minister, members of his immediate family and other connected matters is contained in the Jammu and Kashmir Special Security Group (SSG) Act, 2000.
The SSG, which was set up in 1996 after the National Conference president Farooq Abdullah came to power, will continue to provide security to the chief minister and the former CMs.
The SSG at present provides security to four former CMs including Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP and Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress.